In the previous post, we were discussing the money and time-consuming aspect of having a TV.
Now let’s look on what happiness economics has to say on watching TV:
|Source of the following is the book “Glück – die Sicht der Ökonomie” from the swiss professor Bruno Frey, who was one of the first to start scientific research on the measurement and causes of happiness.(English version here). Highly recommended reading for those who speak German.On his website there are a pile of publications to download in English as well, however mostly very scientific papers and more complicated to read. I happend to hear an excellent lecture of Prof.Frey at the Ludwig-Maximilans-University of Munich in 2001 or so – another great leap on my journey to more good days to live.|
First of all, average TV consumption is massive throughout the world:
3h 30min for the average German.
Even more, 4h 50min, for the average US citizen.
That’s a hell of a lot of time!
Let’s make some comparisons:
- Over their lifespan many people will spend more time watching TV than working.
- The average US guy will spent 1.700 hrs (or 70 days) watching TV per year.
- He will have spent 13,5 years watching TV at the end of his life (assuming age of 85, start watching at 15 – rather optimistic I’d say).
- Assuming 10 ads per hour, you will see 17.000 ads per year and – OMG – 1,2 million ads in your lifespan. (Given that ads increase your desire to buy things you don’t need that fact alone should be frightening and alarming to anybody looking for a more frugal life.
OK, fine, but what now are the outcomes of the economic research?
Well, first finding is, that people tend to be unable to control their TV consumption, thus in economic terms they are overconsuming, or consuming beyond what is good for them. They later tend to regret that they watched so much TV say on a given weekend, but they struggle to get rid of the habit (That’s probably why Mrs. Woodpecker wisely proposed to get rid of the TV-set finally).
Economic reasons for this are the low marginal cost of TV consumption (no cost to turn it on, that’s different with DVD rental or going to the cinema), no need to coordinate with other people, and immediate (however small) gain of satisfaction. Whereas long-term negative consequences cannot be seen immediately.
But the long-term negative consequences exist, among them are:
- loss of social contacts
- disadvantages in career and in education/studying
- increasing loss of the ability to self-control
- decreasing ability for imagination
- increasing materialism and higher dissatisfaction with one own’s salary.
In other words:
(Excessive) watching of TV shows a lot of symptoms of an addiction.
Additionally there are other, more subtle negative effects, e.g. general loss of self-esteem and well-being, as one unknowingly tends to compare his/her own life with the shining lives of TV-stars, heroes, VIPs etc. Thus the negative long-term effects of watching soap operas (as they always show very rich and interesting lives), is particularly high.
The results from statistical studies proof the negative overall effect of excessive TV watching:
- A small and controlled amount of watching TV (up to an average of 0,5h per day – or 2-3 DVDs per week) is OK and even has a small positive influence on happiness. (Interestingly enough, without knowing this data, TV consumption at Woodpecker’s as written in the other post was 1700hrs over the last 8 years, equalling 0,58hrs per day – not that bad, isn’t it?! 🙂 )
- From that point on, happiness decreases continuously with the time spent watching TV. The negative effect gets really significant for the average US/German watching time.
So, given these facts and the money savings aspect of not having a TV, you should now really re-consider:
Are you absolutely sure you need a TV ?!